Understanding Retail Chatbots and How They Enhance the Customer Experience

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March 23, 2023
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 min read
Jonathan Sidor

Thriving in retail today can be tough. A slowing economy, rising inflation, and financial turmoil are all giving industry insiders cause for concern

Retailers know customer relationships and personal experiences are essential to building brand loyalty. However, as more customers opt for online shopping, many brands are struggling to foster these connections without face-to-face interactions.

Online leaders who are already delivering an elevated customer experience (CX) are flourishing thanks to faster transactions, greater availability, and a wider reach — all of which are made possible by chatbots.

Ecommerce brands have been reaping the benefits of chatbots for years now, and it’s not too late for players in the retail industry to do the same. Retail chatbots — powered by artificial intelligence (AI) — have the ability to transform how a company interacts with its customers, offering an enhanced online experience that was once impossible.

In this blog, we’ll explore 9 top use cases for brands looking to leverage chatbots and boost the retail customer experience with conversational AI.

What is a retail chatbot?

A retail chatbot is a program that can simulate a human conversation with a retail company’s potential and current customers. Designed to be an extension of your customer service team, one can provide 24/7 support, assisting customers online, collecting shopper feedback, and facilitating the sales process.     

Today’s chatbots have grown by leaps and bounds from their predecessors, using advanced   natural language processing (NLP) to craft engaging, human-like responses capable of recreating the in-person buying experience. These refinements have made them more popular now than ever before. In fact, 74% of online shoppers prefer to go straight to a chatbot when it comes to getting simple questions answered.

9 ways retail chatbots enhance the customer experience 

1. Chatbots offer instant answers to customer questions

With a retail chatbot, businesses can instantly answer customer queries without delay. There are no queues, no crowds, and no hassle. Shoppers just go to your website and chat with your virtual assistant. Better yet, they can enjoy 24/7 self-service — even when your store is closed, it’s outside your agents’ working hours, or you’re experiencing a spike in traffic.

This streamlined experience enabled by chatbots drives response times down, saving customers precious time and removing much of the friction from the shopping process.

2. Chatbots simplify the buying process

Retail chatbots don’t just answer questions — they’re remarkably effective at making the entire buying experience as smooth as possible.

First, chatbots help customers find exactly what they’re looking for by suggesting relevant products based on a shopper’s purchase or browsing history. They can also proactively step in and offer assistance if customers appear to be stuck between different products on your website.

Once a product is chosen, chatbots kick things into high gear and guide customers through a speedy checkout thanks to their ability to recall a customer’s name as well as shipping and payment data. Once transactions are completed, these platforms provide further assistance by enabling real-time order tracking, further increasing transparency and trust. 

Chatbot technology has been shown to produce a noted uptick in conversion rates, indicating just how helpful it can be throughout the whole customer journey.

3. Chatbots create an omnichannel experience

Retail chatbots allow businesses to recreate exceptional in-store moments over the Internet with a truly omnichannel experience. Chatbots can seamlessly sync up with your other support channels — including email, social media, and SMS — to make online shopping as pleasant as visiting a physical store.

Better still, they link up with any in-store tools you’re using to ensure customers consistently get superior service. For example, a customer can ask a retail chatbot if your store has a particular product in stock. Not only will the chatbot confirm availability, but it signals your store to get the product ready ahead of time. When the customer arrives — voilà — the product is waiting for them to check out, try on, and purchase.

ChatGPT has thrust personalized AI into the mainstream. Find out what ChatGPT can — and can’t — do in retail customer service in our blog post, “What Does ChatGPT Mean for the Future of Customer Service?

4. Chatbots collect customer feedback

We’ve all gone through checkout at our favorite store and had the cashier ask us How was everything today? And maybe you’ve occasionally left some feedback.

But at the end of the day — what does that cashier do with this info? Can they really remember it?

Retail chatbots analyze all customer messages, making it easier for businesses to track customer sentiment and spot trends. By detecting shoppers’ biggest pain points or highlighting their favorite interactions, chatbots give companies direct access to the voice of the customer.

Obtaining this data can be as simple as asking customers Did I resolve your issue? or How would you rate today’s experience? at the end of a chatbot conversation. 

Businesses can use this info to improve the customer experience by offering more of what customers like or quickly taking corrective actions to remedy any shortcomings. 

5. Chatbots speak your customers’ preferred language(s)

As retail becomes more globalized, catering to an international customer base is fast becoming the norm. Even stores with a single location are attracting a more diverse clientele day after day.

But finding bilingual — or multilingual — store assistants and customer service agents often isn’t easy or economical. Thankfully, today’s top retail chatbots are multilingual, fully capable of having conversations in up to 48 languages

Equipped with an AI-powered solution, your website can greet visitors in their preferred language and switch languages mid-conversation, further improving the experience. And wherever your customers are, chatbots are always on, meaning they can deliver a high-quality experience across borders and time zones.    

6. Chatbots deliver personalized shopping experiences

Even the best sales associates can’t remember every customer’s name, personal details, and buying habits.

Chatbots can. 

By tracking customer data, AI tools can customize responses to each individual user. For instance, retail chatbots can create personalized recommendations based on a customer’s past behavior. They can also scan your whole catalog, making them the ultimate personal shopping assistant. 

Chatbots can also guarantee each customer gets treated like a VIP by offering them tailored rewards like birthday discounts and exclusive promotions. These personalized exchanges don’t just improve the customer experience but boost customer satisfaction and loyalty too.

7. Chatbots keep customers engaged

Retail chatbots generate human-like responses in your company’s unique tone and style, ensuring that your brand voice shines through — both at your store and online.

Many users can’t tell the difference between a chatbot and a live agent — the tech is just that good. By detecting a shopper’s intent and sentiment, virtual assistants are able to handle each case with empathy, raising customer satisfaction in the process.

As an added bonus, these tools can reengage any customers who left your site without making a purchase. Whenever they return, a chatbot can proactively reach out to them, asking if they’d like to continue where they left off. This contributes to a more enjoyable customer journey and to lower cart abandonment.

Learn how Missouri Star Quilt Co. embraced AI to scale its customer care and amplify its brand voice in our customer success story.

8. Chatbots assist customers at scale

Stopping by your favorite store on any random day is one thing, but when’s the last time you dared pay a visit on Black Friday? Or Christmas Eve?

During peak shopping seasons, retail stores typically struggle to handle the increased foot traffic and customer demand. Shoppers seeking that personal, in-store experience might be left wanting.

Retail chatbots ensure that online customers always get the top-notch service they expect — no matter how many people are shopping. They’re easily scalable and can answer any number of customer queries at a time, giving customer support teams unlimited capacity.

All of a sudden, going shopping at your busiest times doesn’t seem so scary. Chatbots address all your customer needs online, eliminating any needless frustration. 

9. Chatbots free up agents and associates   

Retail chatbots also provide a fundamental benefit to customers that goes on behind the scenes — they free up a retail store’s human customer support agents and sales associates.

In customer service, a considerable amount of time goes into answering repetitive questions. In-store, it’s often Does this come in my size? Over the phone and online, it’s usually What’s my order status? Throw in a couple of customer complaints, and it’s easy to see why customer service professionals are often overstressed and overworked.

AI chatbot technology removed the lion’s share of this repetitive work. On average, this saves agents 2 hours every single day. What does this mean for customers?

Agents have more time and energy to dedicate to shoppers’ most urgent concerns. Free from their most mundane tasks, they’ll be more motivated to handle those cases that need their expertise. 

Chatbots give most customers instant answers, and they open the door for remaining shoppers to receive white-glove service.  

Retail chatbots enhance the customer experience because they:

  1. Offer instant answers to customer questions
  2. Simplify the buying process
  3. Create an omnichannel experience
  4. Collect customer feedback
  5. Speak your customers’ preferred language(s)
  6. Deliver personalized shopping experiences
  7. Keep customers engaged
  8. Assist customers at scale
  9. Free up agents and associates

Retail chatbots — moving the industry forward 

Chatbots are a natural fit for the retail industry. As the tech behind them only gets better, they’re one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to deliver exceptional customer experiences. 

Zowie is an AI-powered customer service automation platform that equips teams with everything they need to delight customers. To see how your business can benefit from a retail chatbot like Zowie, book a demo today.